Hike the Mojave National Preserve and celebrate its 20th anniversary. Mojave National Preserve beckons the hiker with singing sand dunes, the world’s largest Joshua tree forest and a dozen mountain ranges. The preserve boasts a wonderful concentration of mining history, tabletop mesas, cinder cones, back roads and footpaths. It has great diversity: everything that makes a desert a desert.
What Mojave National Preserve doesn’t have is a lot of visitors.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the formation of the preserve and the beginning of stewardship by the National Park Service, and yet this land remains nearly as undiscovered by hikers and other visitors as it was when administered as the East Mojave National Scenic Area by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
My small contribution to this desert land’s preservation was in spreading the word. In the late 1980s, the Sierra Club and other conservationists were in heated battle with off-roaders and miners over the fate of the eastern Mojave; the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the government agency in charge, was caught in the crossfire.
On a press junket to Kelso Dunes, after listening to all these interest groups argue with each other about this land, author Cheri Rae and I had an ah-ha moment: The public—and decision-makers in Washington—were getting left out of the discussion and had no idea about the natural features of this grand landscape or clue about why it might be worthy of national park status.
Cheri and I got right to work and wrote and published a guidebook, East Mojave National Scenic Area: A Visitors Guide. And we literally put the Mojave on the map—producing a big map with all the area highlights. With those resources in hand, the public and politicians could more easily understand what was out there and make the right decision. We were pleased when Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act in 1994 that created Mojave National Preserve and made the National Park Service its steward.
We’ve continued to support desert conservation efforts, and to share the delights of this special desert land. Recently, we even brought out a special 20th anniversary edition of Mojave National Preserve: A Visitor’s Guide.
Famed Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park are the marquee desert destinations for visitors from across the nation and around the world, and deservedly so. If you want something different, though, and are seeking a place relatively few hikers have discovered, Mojave National Preserve might just be what you’re looking for.